Life in Color

Aug, 20th 2021

Fashion designer Nasrin Jafari uses pattern and color to encourage people to find wholeness in their mixedness
Has anyone else been suffering from a mini (or major) identity crisis when it comes to dressing themselves lately? What are the social norms of post-covid style? I find myself lost in deep thought over what else I like to put on my body after living in very comfortable and very neutral sweats for the past 18 months. Despite wanting to default to playing it safe in all black, grey or beige, there is a new brand hitting the fashion scene that is daring me to dress in a bold way. 

Introducing Mixed, a New York City-based fashion brand and textile studio from the mind and heart of Nasrin Jafari. Her debut collection features clothes that pop starring vibrant patterns and colors that encourage living life fully and freely. Each item encapsulates the brand’s mission to “Live loud in your tensions”, with complimentary written material in the form of blog posts, Instagram captions, and newsletters rounding out the ethos of Nasrin’s vision. Ideas surrounding what it means to be mixed - whether it be racially, professionally, creatively - are challenged in a way that is refreshing and necessary for today’s binary-driven society. Rather than seeing the world as black or white, Nasrin uses fashion to encourage people to embrace all the colors and perspectives within themselves and one another. 

For Nasrin, everything starts with a print. She focuses on colors, letting her imagination and design process naturally flow into the creation of a new pattern. Nature is a huge player, showing itself in the form of rich tropical fruits, lively floral arrangements, and illustrative animal touches. She pushes the envelope on what is expected from a print - no cliches in sight - and creates an original design each time. From there, she moves into sketching the garment, focusing on elements she wishes for herself when it comes to clothes that fit well and feel good. Next, the sketch is passed along to her collaborator and patternmaker Sasha, who fine-tunes the structure of the garment, readying it for production. 
Red 'Nana & Early Bird Button Up Shirt

Not only is the collection original, magnetic and fully manufactured in NYC, it is purely experimental, stemming from Nasrin’s natural talent given that she isn’t a traditionally trained designer. 

Nasrin was living and working in education in New York City prior to starting Mixed. She studied the interplay of economics and policy within education with dreams of reshaping the system itself. After several years of experience working on both the administrative side and in the classroom as a teacher, Nasrin found herself in a contemplative state. She was coming to the realization that the education system was not built for revolutionary change and she had to come to terms with her inability to give more of herself to that effort. Not only was she experiencing burnout from her job, but she was dealing with the loss of her mother to Alzheimer’s, whom she cared for before deciding to fully leave her teaching job. 

“I didn’t really know what I was going to do next… I kind of stumbled on design via this little booklet I was reading on the train back home and it really spoke to me. I had this moment where I was like I wanna create things that inspire people, that move people, the way that this thing is moving me.”

And that is what she is doing. What started as a line of fashionable masks during the pandemic, has grown into a clothing line of shirts, dresses and pantsuits for all genders. At its core, all of Nasrin’s designs stem from her desire to make people think, feel and do. She plays into her own mixed experience as inspiration for sending the message that it’s more than okay to explore and embrace all the parts of you, leading towards greater authority over solidifying your own ideas, beliefs and how you want to live your life. 

The idea of embracing all parts of you is one that many mixed-race people grapple with on a day-to-day basis. Nasrin describes this reality as living with tension, as “… these moments in my life where I’m drawn to one part of me more than the other where it’s never quite equal. And it’s never quite one thing.” She feels this racially as being both Japanese-American and Iranian-American as well as in her professional and creative life.
Nasrin Jafari

Both of Nasrin’s parents immigrated to America. Her father moved from Isfahan, Iran to Los Angeles, and worked as a cab driver in his early days in the city. He fell in love with one of his passengers, Nasrin’s mother, who came from Kyushu, Japan on a solo trip, which was quite rare during that time. I am literally so obsessed with their IRL romcom meet cute, especially since they went on to get married which was a bold move during a time that interracial marriage was less common, let alone looked down upon by Japanese culture. (Side note to Nasrin: I would love to learn more about their love story in a follow-up interview please!)

Nasrin’s parents provided a dichotomy of energies for her growing up, balancing her out between two extremes. Her mother was punctual and made sure everything was in its place and preferred to do things by the book. Whereas her father provided more of an unstructured mentality and encouraged her to be free and have fun. 

Growing up in LA, Nasrin spent a lot of time with her extended family from her father’s side. She was surrounded by Iranian culture visiting her cousin’s houses, listening to Iranian music and getting into the style. Since she is also Japanese however, it was difficult for her to fully feel like she fit in. There were other periods in her childhood where she went to Japanese school and wanted to learn the language, which pivoted her attention towards her mother’s culture. She has found in her experience that it’s hard to hold space for both cultures at the same time, adding that she doesn’t believe one needs to, and that this tension creates a “constantly moving point” about who she is. She never fully knows right where she stands. 

The idea of identity not standing still and being static is an idea that Nasrin applies beyond solely existing in terms of race and culture. She sees this tension in her professional life and creative interests as it pertains to shifting focus and stepping into different roles. By purposefully using messaging and ancillary content to expand the idea of being mixed without claiming to explain the mixed experience as one catch-all monolith, Nasrin is able to build a deeper connection with her customers. Not only are they buying clothes that look and feel amazing, but they are part of a community that recognizes the different forms of mixedness in their own lives, whether it be working a day job plus pursuing a side hustle, balancing more than one creative passion, or finding one’s identity as both a mom and working professional. 

Mixed is fostering a community that sees mixedness as a mindset and approach to life, where there is respect and understanding for holding more than one identity and perspective at the same time. 

As a society, it seems we have been moving in the direction of valuing strong labels and emphasizing the need to choose a side, feeding into an “us vs them” mentality that is creating division, anger and hatred. For Nasrin, she wants to be mindful of not falling into a tribalistic way of thinking and encourages her customers to think about how they view and participate in the greater community. In one of her newsletters, she posed the question, “Are you part of the ‘we’ or the ‘us’, and if so, who is them?” This is such a beautiful and challenging question because it really causes you to pause and consider your role in society and culture from an active lens. 

Social media can often make people fall into a bubble, passively adopting the views of what’s most popular in their feed. I know in the last year, I’ve been heavily influenced by content I see online and unfortunately, negative messages have seeped into my brain that I don’t necessarily agree with or want to hold as my own truth. Especially when it comes to how racial groups are siloed from one another. It takes an active approach to combat the dangers of groupthink, including asking yourself questions like the ones Nasrin shares with her audience that welcome you to fully gain control over your own beliefs. 

In addition to seeing the importance of shaping your own belief system, Nasrin also examines the role of community in that process. At what point are communities helpful and at what point are communities harmful? This is a deeper layer that many people shy away from because on the surface, community is seen as a positive entity of society. However, if a community shuns someone for speaking up and offering an alternative perspective, this can be detrimental for providing mutual respect, support and understanding. 

Irshad Manji, a Canadian educator, author, and Emmy award-nominated documentary filmmaker is one of Nasrin’s influences when thinking about the role and responsibility of community in providing a safe space for people. Manji talks about ‘safe spaces' in her book Don’t Label Me, using examples from a variety of settings that showcase the value of inviting discussion without judgment. She observed in an academic context that, “safe spaces are places where all perspectives at the table, offensive or bland, get an airing as long as students back them up… the kids in these spaces are safe – not from intellectual challenges but from immediate judgments.” Why not implement this practice within our workspaces, friend groups, and families? It is difficult and not as popular to do, however, it can foster connections that are truly inclusive. 

Nasrin consciously chooses to cultivate a sense of belonging that doesn’t fall into the trap of overgeneralizing and oversimplifying. By eliminating fear – of judgment or not fully being XYZ – she is expanding the sense of identity for the better. 

Mamma Mango Midi Dress


“We’re not half, halfies, or hapas. We’re not a quarter or three-fourths or any other arbitrary fraction of our identities.” 

Nasrin’s personal journey in discovering her identity is inspiring because she offers a fresh take that honors feeling whole versus merely a part of. She embraces all sides of herself, refusing to have a limited belief about dissecting the exact percentage of what makes you you. She understands there will always be moments of not fitting in, such as when she travels to Japan and doesn’t “look” or “feel” Japanese, yet she finds power within herself to affirm that she is in fact Japanese. She isn’t half or a part, but her Japanese culture fully contributes to who she is. As well as her Iranian culture. And growing up in America. 

By shifting language and introducing herself as “Japanese and Iranian” instead of saying “half Japanese, half Iranian” she is communicating to herself that she can claim who she is in its entirety without question. And that’s a power that shows itself through her bold and eye-catching designs. 

Nasrin is Japanese, Iranian and American; a designer and entrepreneur; a daughter, partner, friend; passionate about teaching and inspiring others, now through fashion instead of a classroom; and values building a brand and movement where others can be bold in accepting all who they are. 

Dream dinner date: Having a meal with her mom 
If she could spend a year anywhere in the world (Covid disappeared): Visiting Japan again and continuing deepening her connection to her mom and culture

Shop the Mixed SS21 collection to add fun and personality to your closet 
SS21 Lookbook
Follow @Mixed_byNasrin 

mixed, fashion, design, textile design, iranian american, Japanese American, mixed-race, nyc-made, ss21 collection,